It is becoming increasingly clear that leaving Scientology is no easy task. People who left Scientology the ”right way” undergo months of interrogation while being locked up, and have to sign gag orders. Those who have decided to perform the great Scientology escape instead – whether it be jumping the gate, slipping their “handlers” in public, or even taking a legal sneak attack approach undergo even more difficulties – often risk their life and wellbeing. The church is known for having ex-members followed by private detectives, they install cameras, they plant spies in their neighborhoods, and harass them every chance they get.
Escaping Scientology isn’t just getting out of the compound, it’s being disconnected from family, it’s overcoming the slander and harassment of church officials that end up on the Internet, and it’s starting your own life with no real foundation. Most members spend their whole lives in Scientology and they don’t know anything else. They leave with no education, no money, no friends, or any idea about how the real world works. It’s a harrowing journey many of us will never understand.
1. Leah Remini Became an Enemy of the Church After Speaking Out
In 2013, actress Leah Remini announced to the world she was leaving the Church of Scientology. Remini was a Scientologist for 30 years, and she wasn’t afraid of the retaliation she knew would come her way when she revealed the controlling and abusive nature of the cult.
After innocently asking why David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly Miscavige, wasn’t in attendance at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes wedding, Remini was met with a harsh scolding. She was basically told she wasn’t high enough in the pecking order to ask about the leader’s wife. Not only did this make her more curious about Shelly’s whereabouts, but it also made her start to question many things about the organization. The more she questioned and researched, the more she realized she was living a lie.
Now labeled a “suppressive person,” an enemy of the church, Remini has gone as far as documenting the tales of abuses and escapes of other ex-Scientologists in her new documentary series on A&E.
2. Mike Rinder Was Harassed For Months After Leaving
Mike Rinder was a high-ranking executive and International Spokesperson of the Church of Scientology for 46 years before breaking away in 2007. Despite his devotion to the church and its leader, David Miscavige, he was still physically beaten by Miscavige and thrown in the guarded onsite prison, known as ‘the hole,’ for two years. He was then told he was being sent away from his family to Australia. This was the last straw. Rinder took his suitcase and snuck off grounds before anyone noticed. His job had been to discredit those who spoke out against the church, but he ended up becoming one of the church’s targets.
Escaping wasn’t as easy a leaving the organization. Rinder felt the full force of the organization’s “fair game” policy, which is the idea that anyone declared an enemy of the church can be tricked, harassed, followed, lied to, sued, or destroyed. The church sent members to follow him everywhere he went, and one of them even rammed into the back of his car. They paid the garbage men to steal his trash, posted lies about him on blogs, and set up hidden cameras outside of his private residence. They even planted a person across the street from his home, posing as a new neighbor for six months.
They seemed to have forgotten Rinder was the master, and he “fair gamed” them right back; he called them out, started following them right back with his camera and tape recorder capturing evidence of their harassment. Now Rinder has been working with Leah Remini to expose the cult through her documentary series on A&E.
3. Amy Scobee Endured Rape, Kidnap, And Hard Labor
Amy Scobee, a 27-year member, was responsible for recruiting celebrities to join Scientology and establishing the church’s celebrity centers. Scobee was introduced to Scientology by her mother when she was 14 and was basically kidnapped when they sent her off to the Sea Organization without parental consent when she was just 16. While she was still underage, a much-older executive sexually assaulted her. Scobee was made to believe it was her fault and the church covered up the statutory rape.
On four occasions, she was sent to the rehabilitation program, which is basically a reform program for Sea Org members who start to question the insanity going on around them. The moment her doubts showed, she faced security checks and was guarded 24 hours a day, fed only beans and rice, and was declared a “suppressive person,” an enemy of Scientology.
She decided enough was enough and escaped with her husband in March 2005.
4. Ron Miscavige Sped Away After Tricking The Guards
Ron Miscavige, David Miscavige’s father, discussed his wake up call in an interview with Leah Remini. Internet usage was heavily monitored and no one really knew what the outside world was saying about Scientology. David, not realizing the popular e-reader also had Internet access, gifted his father a Kindle, and one unrestricted Google search was all it took to reveal the truth of what he’d devoted his life to. Physical abuse, sexual assault allegations, continued harassment of former members, Ron couldn’t find anything good about the cult his own son led. He showed his wife Becky and they devised a six-month plan to escape.
Ron and Becky established a routine, they got the guards used to letting them go out every Sunday for six months. The guards opened the gate and watched them drive over and soon return. Until the final day came and Ron slowly pulled out like normal, then made a left turn, and slammed down on the gas pedal. They just kept going.
5. Jenna Miscavige Hill Discovered The Truth About Scientology And Bailed
Jenna Miscavige Hill, author of Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, also happens to be the (now estranged) niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Hill was raised in the most elite group within the organization known as the Sea Org, which according to Hill, is an abusive child labor camp. Children raised in the Sea Org were forced to work 14-hour days, 7 days a week, doing physical labor that would be tough on even grown men.
It wasn’t until 2004, when Hill and her husband Dallas were sent on a church mission to Australia and learned the extent of the church of Scientology’s deceit. This trip exposed them to unfiltered Internet access and television, they soon discovered all the good they were told they were doing was a lie. They were bombarded by the criticisms of Scientology, all this time they thought they were saving the planet.
They decided to leave but the church wasn’t making it easy on them. The organization threatened disconnection from family. They were threatened financially and were pressured to sign contracts entitling the church to $10,000 for every negative comment either of them made publicly about the church. None of this stopped Jenna from leaving in 2005, or of speaking out against the church.
6. Marc Headley Led Scientologists On A High Speed Chase
Marc Headley was an integral part of the Scientology propaganda machine. He worked directly for David Miscavige, producing all of the Scientology events that gave followers false statistics of how impactful the church is to the world. His work wasn’t fulfilling, he realized he wasn’t helping people, and he was also physically abused by David Miscavige.
In January 2005, Marc packed a bag, hopped on a motorcycle, and took off. Soon a security truck was behind him, honking, trying to get him to come back. The driver then ran Marc off the road, got out, and took the keys out of the bike. Marc jumped out into the road and started flagging for help. A driver saw this and called 911. The driver handed Marc his keys back and took off before the police arrived.
7. Claire Headley Ran Away During A Doctor’s Appointment
Claire Headley joined Scientology at 16 and wanted to leave not long after. Unfortunately she was faced with the threat of a “Freeloader’s Debt,” which means she’d owe the church $40,000 if she left. That was an overwhelming amount of money for a 16-year-old, so she stayed, even when she was forced to have an abortion. She witnessed others escape and be hunted down and brought back, so she didn’t see a way out.
After Claire’s husband Marc Headley successfully escaped, she stayed behind, took off her wedding ring, and pretended she had no intentions of joining him while she planned her own escape. She was able to contact Marc through an email address no one knew about and she waited for her upcoming eye appointment to make a break for it. She slipped out the back door and headed for the bus station. Scientology staff were already there waiting for her but she stood her ground and hopped on a bus to Las Vegas. Marc has since written a book, Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology, which was published in 2009. And the Headleys are still happily married, have three children, and couldn’t care less about being declared “enemies” of the church of Scientology.
8. Katie Holmes Left Before Her Daughter Was Indoctrinated
Family is considered a false dynamic in Scientology. Since they are all spiritual beings who experience many lives, they place very little importance on family because they’re only your family in “this life.” As Suri Cruise, daughter of famed Scientologist Tom Cruise and actress Katie Holmes, neared the age children are indoctrinated into Scientology, Holmes planned their escape. Considering how heavily guarded Holmes and Cruise have been, it took some serious maneuvering on Holmes’s part to hire a lawyer and file for a divorce without anyone knowing until it was too late.
Fearing her daughter would be turned against her (as Nicole Kidman’s children were after her divorce from Cruise) Holmes filed for full custody of Suri. Fighting for full custody means explaining why she considered Tom unfit to share custody, and proving her case would mean exposing the churches misdeeds. Cruise later admitted Holmes left their five-year marriage and took their daughter to protect her from Scientology.
9. Tom DeVocht Was Once A High-Ranking Official, Now He’s Being Followed
While this wasn’t the first time he spoke out against the church, Tom DeVocht shared his story on Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. DeVocht became a member at just 12 years old and worked his way up to a high-ranking Sea Org executive. He purchased buildings for new centers and worked very closely with David Miscavige. This of course, put him in the difficult position of being assigned impossible tasks and then being viciously attacked for not being able to complete them. Miscavige asked him to have a street closed and every sidewalk around all the Scientology buildings to be ripped out so protesters couldn’t stand there. Of course, the permits required for something like this were denied. When DeVocht delivered the news, Miscavige attacked him, called him an enemy, and choked him.
After 28 years and multiple attacks, what finally made him walk away was the realization Miscavige was essentially winging it. Miscavige was coming up with the “upper level OT” curriculum on his own, apart from the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. Since leaving the Church of Scientology in 2005, DeVocht has since been declared a suppressive person. According to DeVocht he has remained under surveillance by the church and his sister Nancy, was sent the Rehabilitation Project Force as punishment for visiting him after he left.
10. Jeff Hawkins Spent Six Months Trying To Leave
Jeff Hawkins spent 30 years dedicated to Scientology, working side-by-side with David Miscavige. He worked in marketing and created the Dianetics campaign, which successfully boosted the church’s book sales in the 1980s. Miscavige still found things wrong with his work, accused him of committing “crimes” and physically attacked him on multiple occasions.
In 2005, he decided to leave. He made his intentions known and began a process called “routing out.” This process was three months of intense interrogation while on lockdown, in hopes he’d confess his “crimes.” Information recovered during this time period is usually used to dig up dirt for blackmail purposes to keep ex-members from telling the truth about that goes on there. They also required his signature on a gag order, then he was allowed to walk out. Like all ex-members, he was cut off from everyone. All members of Scientology, including family members are forced to “disconnect” from ex-members.
11. Carmen Llewellyn Became Suicidal After Scientologists Stalked Her
Actress Carmen Llewellyn became a Scientologist in 1995, after she married Church member Jason Lee. But she left after divorcing Lee in 2002, and has since spoken out about the group’s abuses. Llewellyn says that the Church forced Tom Cruise to divorce Nicole Kidman, and noted the “odd” behavior of members like John Travolta and Jenna Elfman. She also personally suffered due to her choice to leave Scientology:
“I lost my manager and my career. People didn’t return my phone calls. Scientologists followed me down the street. They took pictures of my kids. They’d stake out my house, wait until we came out and follow us. They came looking for me to scare me, I was nearly suicidal.”
This article was originally published on Ranker.